Diagnosis and treatment of xerosis cutis - a position paper

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2019 Nov:17 Suppl 7:3-33. doi: 10.1111/ddg.13906.


Background and rationale: Xerosis cutis (also referred to as xeroderma, dry skin, asteatosis) affects more than 10 million individuals in Germany. It is among the most common dermatological diagnoses and a cardinal symptom of many dermatological, internal and neurological diseases. Even though it has been established that basic skin care plays a significant role in the management of patients with xerosis cutis, there are as yet no evidence-based algorithms for diagnosis and treatment.

Objective: The present position paper provides physicians across all specialties with a practical, symptom-based approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of xerosis cutis.

Methods: Within a structured decision-making process, a panel of experienced dermatologists first defined questions relevant to everyday clinical practice, which were then addressed by a systematic review of the literature. Based on the evidence available as well as expert consensus, diagnostic and treatment algorithms were subsequently developed and agreed upon.

Results: Xerosis cutis is generally diagnosed on clinical grounds. Possible trigger factors must be avoided, and comorbidities should be adequately and specifically treated. Suitable skin care products should be chosen with a view to improving skin hydration and restoring its barrier function. They should therefore contain both rehydrating and lipid-replenishing components. The "drier" the skin appears, the greater the lipid content should be (preferably using water-in-oil formulations). The choice of ingredients is based on a patient's individual symptoms, such as scaling (e.g., urea), fissures/rhagades (e.g., urea or dexpanthenol), erythema (e.g., licochalcone A) and pruritus (e.g., polidocanol). Other factors to be considered include the site affected and patient age. Ingredients or rather combinations thereof for which there is good clinical evidence should be preferentially used. The best evidence by far is available for urea, whose efficacy in the treatment of xerosis is further enhanced by combining it with other natural moisturizing components and ceramides. The "xerosimeter" is a tool developed in an effort to facilitate patient management and for training purposes. It not only includes practical tools for diagnosis and follow-up but also a classification of ingredients and a structured treatment algorithm.

Conclusion: The structured symptom- and evidence-based approach proposed herein contains a road map for diagnosis and treatment of xerosis cutis. It aims to raise awareness in terms of prevention and early treatment of this condition and may thus improve quality of life and prevent potential sequelae.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Ichthyosis*
  • Prurigo*
  • Pruritus
  • Quality of Life